The Ashburton Guardian. Magna est Veritas, et Prevalebit. THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 16, 1882. The Last Movement of General Booth’s Salvation Army.
It has unfortunately often been the case that the great name of Christianity has been trampled in the mire through the follies and impostures of those who make a special profession of awe and love for it. It is rarely safe for even the highest individual types of the human race, for large masses of people are never safe, to outwardly affect an abnormal purity of soul, or an abnormal contempt of the customs of society. The result in such instances is usually the scorn and disgust of intelligent and honest headed people. The learned ecclesiastical historian Mosheim tells us that at the time of the Great Reformation of thought and morals in the sixteenth century, an ignorant tailor named John Bockholdt, of Leyden, who was one of the class referred to, assembled his fol-
lowers (consisting of six men and five women) in his house, and in their endeavor to imitate Adam and Eve in their state of innocence in Paradise, they stripped off every stitch of clothing they had, cast it into the fire, and then sallied forth into the public street to show themselves. On being arrested and brought before the magistrate, they defended themselves by saying that “ they were the naked truth.” Their defence, however, was not sufficient to prevent their being compelled to put on worldly clothing again, and to serve a sentence of imprisonment. In a similar manner also, as Carlyle tells us in his “ Life of Oliver Cromwell,” at the first outburst of Quakerism, James Naylor, the Quaker, rode stark naked on Iris horse through the city of London. Poor Naylor, however, who was really a good man, with the humble honesty common among his sect, afterwards admitted that he was wandering in his mind at the time, and was sorry for it. Well would it be for “ General ” Booth and the members of his socalled “ Salvation Army ” if they were to imitate Naylor’s subsequent regret, rather than to surpass his previous folly. But we fear that that is hopeless with persons of his and their enormous selt-righteous conceit. To him and to them Tom Hood’s lines well apply : Of all praties since Lucifer’s attaint The proudest swells tire self-elected saint.
Just take for illustration of their tone of thought the rubbish of one of their most admired spiritual songs:— Good Elijah went to heaven In a chariot of fire, Bright and warm to g’lory driven, Fiery horses drew him higher. We’re going up ! we’re going up ! In chariots we’re going up ! We’re going up! we’re going up ! At any speed we’re going up. Up to heaven Paul was carried, Wondrous things to hear and see, He surveyed the upper country — Paul went up to number three,
We’re going up, etc. Now we should like to know who entitled these people to put themselves on an equality with Elijah and Paul, and when did they stake their lives upon their faith, or endure for its sake, hunger and thirst, persecution and poverty? The notions of this sham “ General ” seem to be of a very different kind from anything of this sort, especially after his last escapade. It seems, from recent telegrams, that Mr Booth not long back leased or purchased the Eagle Tavern in the City road, London, apparently for the enjoyments of the faithful. This well known place of amusement was for many ’years a sort of casino, with gardens attached, where fast young men about town from the ranks of the clerks, shopmen, etc., in the great city used at night to meet milliners and barmaids of equivocal character,, dance with them, and obtain what refreshments they required either with other company or by themselves. It appears that now Booth has “ surprised and grieved the judicious among his friends.” so the telegram runs, “ by applying to the magistrates for a dancing license for the tavern.” We further learn that the magistrates declined altogether to entertain the proposal. Considering what we know to have been the character, or rather want of character, of the place the wonder is that any decent person should have the impudence to make such an application. But, as Swift said long ago, “ Very nice metware often men of very nasty ideas.” That Mr Booth and his Salvation Army should fancy that when the Apostle Paul was caught up to heaven he went to a hotel and lodged in “ Number Three,” may be natural to them, just as it may be quite natural to them that in their programme of religious exercises there should be a ‘ great exhibition of hallelujah lasses,” but to most respectable men and women, there is something grossly sensual and repulsive in all this. If Booth wants to be a hotelkeeper and keep a “ fast house,” let him do so openly and not under the garb of religion. We should not think well of him then, but at any rate far better than we do now. His sensuality would be bad, but not half so bad as it is when combined with imposture. As for his silly followers, we can only pity them for their lack of brains in enlisting under such a general, and merely ask them one question, which they can answer to their own consciences, for it is a very easy one ; with all this show of religious fighting, have they learnt a bit more than before how to fight against their own pride, vanity, insincerity, and have they learned better what the old prophet taught them was the substance of real religion —“ To do justly, and love mercy, and walk humbly before their God ?” An appeal to the applause of weak-minded prelates anxious at all cost to get up a show of religious excitement, will not answer the question. Other prelates of the Church of England in better times might have taken a very different view. Fearless, sensible Latimer ; thoughtful and statesmanlike Cranmer; saintly and eloquent Jeremy Taylor; profoundly philosophical Butler and Berkeley; judicious Tillotson; and learned, strong-minded Horsley, have all long since joined the majority : but their thoughts live with us in their works, and we can imagine the scorn and disgust with which these great and reverend men would have regarded the doings of General Booth and his Salvation Army.